A Biblical Portrayal of the Trinity


Peter Toon



A BridgePoint Book

[Scanned/Word Processed 2000]


Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, © 1946, 1952, 1971, 1973. Other quotations are from the Authorized (King James) Version (KJV).

Copyediting: Robert N. Hosack

Cover Design: Andrea Boven

BridgePoint is the academic imprint of Victor Books.

© 1996 by Victor Books / SP Publications, Inc.

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.


No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission, except for brief quotations in books and critical reviews. For information write Victor Books, 1825 College Avenue, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.



For Charles Caldwell

who believes, teaches, and confesses





Preface — 9


1/ Who Is God? — 15

2/ God in Relation to Us — 31

3/ Theology — Methods and Approaches — 51


4/YHWH — The One and Only God — 73

5/ YHWH — Plurality in Unity — 95

6/ Mutation in Monotheism — 113


7/ The Father — 133

8/ The Son — 153

9/ The Holy Spirit — 175


10/ Disclosures of the Holy Trinity — 197

11/ From the Father . . . to the Father — 213

12/ Confessing the Trinity Today — 231

Notes — 247; Select Name and Subject Index — 253; Scripture Index — 263

[Page 9]


What greater joy can a theologian have than to contemplate the glory of God the Father in the face of Jesus Christ, his Son, by the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit!  What greater privilege can a theologian have than to seek to expound the doctrine of the Mystery of the Blessed, Holy, and Undivided Trinity – God blessed forever and unto the ages of ages.  Is not the chief end of man to enjoy and glorify God forever?

In the summer of 1994, it was my pleasure to go to Grand Rapids, Michigan at the invitation of the Institute of Theological Studies.  In its studio I recorded twenty-four lectures on the origins and development of the church doctrine (dogma) of the Holy Trinity.  Together with the printed booklets I also wrote, these tapes are now being used in thirty or so seminaries for extramural credit in their Master of Divinity programs.  The idea of writing the book followed the making of the tapes.

This study is intended to set forth the biblical doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  I may express this purpose more accurately by stating that I seek to discover and present the implicit trinitarianism of the New Testament – the apostolic vision of the Trinity.

The book, however, is not written in the way that I would

[Page 10]

normally expect a modern biblical scholar to write such a book.  The truth of the matter is that (from a technical point of view) I am not a biblical scholar.  If I am anything – rather than "a jack of all trades and master of none" – I am a theologian, who is committed to the Faith expressed in the Nicene Creed from the fourth century.  I approach and expound the Scriptures within this credal and doctrinal framework.  Yet in doing this I do not reject the modern historical-critical method of studying the Bible, but make use of it in all kinds of ways.

Having taught college and seminary courses in theology and doctrine for many years, I have tried to maintain an academic and intellectual level which is neither too easy nor too demanding for the average student.  Further, I have written in such a way that Christians who are used to serious reading, but who do not have seminary training in divinity, can follow the presentation.  Also, I have provided a helpful list of books for further reading at the end of each chapter.

There is another matter on which I must make a brief comment.  I have deliberately made no concessions in this book to modern feminist ideology and political correctness in terms of either the naming and addressing God or the naming and addressing of human beings, who are created by God in his image and after his likeness.  My refusal to accommodate inclusive language is not because I am an obdurate hard-liner and right-winger, who lives in the "androcentric" terminology and ideas of the past.  It is because (as I hope will become clear to my reader by chapter 12) the biblical and credal portrayal of the Holy Trinity requires that we do not use inclusive language of Yahweh-Elohim, who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  For this reason I have used the older RSV as my primary translation.

In the history of the church the most famous book on the doctrine of the Trinity is De Trinitate by St. Augustine of Hippo.  I shall refer to this book at various points in the chapters which follow.  Here I would like to identify myself with Augustine in the request he made to his readers.

Let me ask of my reader, wherever, alike with myself, he is certain, there to go with me; wherever, alike with me, he hesitates, there to join with me in inquiring; wherever

[Page 11]

he recognizes himself to be in error, there to return to me; wherever he recognizes me to be so, there to call me back; so that we may enter together upon the path of charity, and advance towards Him of whom it is said, "Seek His face evermore."  And I would make this pious and safe agreement, in the presence of our Lord God, with ail who read my writings . . . which inquire into the unity of the Trinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; because in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.1

I ask my readers to reflect upon the last three points made by Augustine – the danger of error, the heavy intellectual demands, and the profit of knowing the truth.

In gratitude for his friendship and kindness to my family, I dedicate this book to the Rev. Dr. Charles Caldwell, who has just retired as a professor of pastoral theology at Nashotah House Episcopal Seminary in Wisconsin.  In a variety of ways and in our own minimal way, the two of us have sought to keep alive a joyful Trinitarian Orthodoxy in Anglicanism.  May he, with his family, always experience and faithfully proclaim "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit."

In the providence of God I actually completed the writing of this book on the Blessed, Holy, and Undivided Trinity on the day when the Western Church calls the faithful to celebrate their Trinitarian Faith – Trinity Sunday, June 11, 1995.  On this day it was my privilege to preach twice on the Holy Trinity at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church, Elm Grove, outside of Milwaukee; then, in the afternoon I attended the graduation of my daughter, Deborah, from Oconomowoc High School, Wisconsin.

Blessed by YHWH (Yahweh-Elohim)! And thus: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and always even unto ages of ages.  Amen."

Peter Toon

The Feast of the Holy Trinity,

June 1995

[Pages 12 & 14 = blank; page 13 begins Part One: Background and Context]

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